The experience of chronic or persistent physical pain is not simply the result of the underlying physiological cause but a combination of the thoughts, feelings and behaviours that accompany it. This explains why it if often not sufficient to treat only the physical aspects of pain (e.g. via analgesics).
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for Physical Pain
Evidence suggests that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can significantly reduce the physical and psychosocial disability experienced by those suffering from both chronic physical pain (e.g. low back pain) and disease related pain (e.g. cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis), not by taking away the physical cause but by changing the thoughts, feelings and behaviours that influence it’s salience.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for physical pain adopts a three pronged approach:
Patients are introduced to how the thoughts, feeling and behaviours that accompany their pain influences how prominent a part of their overall experience of life it is.
A combination of physical and psychological strategies are taught to enable the patient to alter their thoughts, feeling and behaviours so that they diminish the intensity of the physical pain rather than exacerbate it.
Techniques for ensuring that these coping strategies are applied over the longer term are taught along with problem solving skills and the development of plans for future pain flare ups.
The following clip is from the DVD “10 Minute CBT in practice: Physical Health and long-term conditions” and demonstrates this approach: